2019-20 College Football Bowl Games Preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! College football bowl season begins this Friday and there will be 40 FBS bowl games starting Friday and ending on January 13th with the National Championship Game.

Bowl Picks and Preview Podcast

Listen to Mike and Zach give their thoughts and picks on 14 of the games on the latest MikeDropSports Podcast.

MikeDropSports Podcast


Collaboration of bowl games picks with MikeDropSports, D&S Sports Talk, Cherry Pickin’ Podcast, and DomandThunder Show.


Dropping the Mic

Bowl games are NOT meaningless! I hate when people say they are. Bowl games are extremely meaningless to senior players, especially those who do not have a future as a pro football player. It’s significant to young players who get additional practice time and an extra chance to impress their coaches. It matters to fans who like to gamble. And to some schools, it just means more. Like Indiana, who hasn’t won a bowl game since 1991. Or Kent State and Buffalo, who are 0-3 in bowl games. Or Illinois, who is playing in their first bowl game since 2014 and their first under coach Lovie Smith. If you can’t get excited for Western Michigan vs Western Kentucky in the First Responders Bowl, that’s your problem. But that doesn’t mean the game is “meaningless”.

Hawaii will face BYU in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. It will be the school’s 13th bowl appearance and the 11th bowl they have played in Hawaii. Outside of their home state, they played in the 1992 Holiday Bowl in San Diego and the 2008 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Hawaii is a beautiful place, but wouldn’t it be more fun for them to travel and get a free trip away from home for a few days?

College football is so cruel. At 11-1, Utah was on the cusp of making the playoffs. After losing the PAC-12 Championship game to Oregon, they fell out of the NY6 bowls all together and their reward for an awesome season is a trip to the Alamo Bowl to play 7-5 Texas. Alamo Bowl isn’t the worst thing, but playing Texas? In 2019, that stinks.

Why is Virginia in the Orange Bowl? It’s because four score and seven years ago, someone from ancient times signed a contract that gave the ACC access to this game. Clemson is in the playoffs, which means another ACC team gets to represent the conference. That responsibility falls to Virginia – who finished 9-4, after losing to Clemson in the ACC Championship Game 62-17. That performance, earned them the right to play Florida in this prestigious game. The honor should have gone to Notre Dame, who finished 10-2 and beat Virginia 35-10. Or it should have gone to Utah or Minnesota, as a reward for their outstanding seasons.

FAU is playing in the school’s 4th bowl game and for the second time in three years, playing in the Boca Raton Bowl in their home stadium. That’s cool and convenient, but like Hawaii, wouldn’t it be better for them to get a fun trip away from home? Owls went 10-3 and face a tough SMU team that also won 10 games. And from SMU’s perspective, they now have to play a road game in the bowl.

Eliminate repetitive bowl games

Playing the same game in consecutive years should not be prohibited. For the second straight year, Georgia just missed out on the playoffs, after losing the SEC Championship Game. And for the second year in a row, they will play in the Sugar Bowl. They got smoked by Texas last year, as the team came out flat and unmotivated. I would expect more of the same this year. Players won’t care. Fans won’t care. Maybe Florida should have gotten this spot and let Georgia go to the Orange Bowl, just for a different experience.

Appalachian State, after winning the Sun Belt Championship Game, is playing in the New Orleans Bowl for the second year in a row.

Boise State is playing in the Las Vegas Bowl for the second time in three years and the 5th time since 2010.

And as noted above, FAU is at home in the Boca Bowl for the second time in three years and Hawaii is in the Hawaii Bowl for the 11th time in 13 total bowl appearances.

Lack of Respect for Group of 5 Champions

Boise State and Appalachian State won their respective conference championship games and finished 12-1. The playoff committee ranked Memphis as the highest ranked group of five champion, which means they get to play in the Cotton Bowl. You can debate Memphis’ resume against those two all you’d like, but that all feels fair and reasonable.

What’s not fair and reasonable is the lack of respect and reward the other champions get. Boise State will face a mediocre 7-5 PAC-12 team (Washington), while Appalachian State will face the RUNNER-UP from Conference-USA. Not even, the C-USA champion!

Both of these teams deserve better opponents. They deserve a larger spotlight in premiere, post-Christmas Bowl games. I’m not advocating for the Cotton Bowl or the Orange Bowl. But what if Boise State got to play a 9-3 Iowa team or even 8-4 USC was better than Washington. Or what if Appalachian State got to play in the nearby Belk Bowl against Virginia Tech?

Aren’t the bowl games about selling tickets and tv ratings? Do you really think App State vs Virginia Tech would have worse ratings than Virginia Tech vs Kentucky? Absolutely not! That game would sell out and pull in great revenue numbers. Boise State against just about any team would be appealing, for the upset intrigue. Washington is a nice opponent by name, but it feels like a letdown, given the success of this season.

Fun Facts to Know

First Bowl Game in Program History

Charlotte (vs Buffalo in Bahamas Bowl) – Their football team has existed only since 2013 and only at the FBS level, in Conference USA. since 2015.

Liberty (vs Georgia Southern in Cure Bowl) – This is the Flames’ second year in FBS, after joining in 2018 as an Independent. They are coached by former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.

Seeking bowl game win #1

In addition to Charlotte and Liberty, two teams with bowl experience enter their games winless…

Buffalo (vs Charlotte in Bahamas Bowl) – Bulls are 0-3 all-time, losing last year to UAB in the Dollar General Bowl.

Kent State (vs Utah State in Frisco Bowl) – Flashes are 0-3 and seek their first win the same day as Buffalo. This is their first bowl game since 2012. Before that, they last played in a bowl in 1972 and 1954.

Looking to stay unbeaten

Appalachian State (vs UAB in New Orleans Bowl) – This is App State’s 5th consecutive year in a bowl game, winning 3 straight against MAC opponents and now playing their second against the C-USA championship game runner up.

FAU (vs SMU in Boca Raton Bowl) – FAU played in their first two bowls games in 2007 and 2008 under legendary head coach Howard Schnellenberger. They most recently won the Boca Raton Bowl in 2017.

Georgia Southern (vs Liberty in Cure Bowl) – Georgia Southern is 2-0, winning the GoDaddy Bowl in 2015 and last year’s Camellia Bowl.

Coaching connections

Chris Peterson Bowl” – Boise State vs Washington in Las Vegas Bowl

Chris Petersen will coach his last game (for now) as he leads the 7-5 Washington Huskies, whom he has coached since 2014 against his former team Boise State.

Petersen went 92-12 in 8 years at Boise State and is just 54-26 in 6 years at Washington. He has a 1-4 bowl record at UW, including losses the last 3 years to Alabama in the playoffs, Penn State in Fiesta Bowl, and Rose Bowl vs Ohio State.

Citrus Bowl – Alabama vs Michigan

Michigan Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis worked under Nick Saban as Alabama OC in 2018.

Sun Bowl – Arizona State vs Florida State

Mike Norvell is the new FSU head coach, being hired from Memphis. He will not be involved in this bowl game, however it’s worth noting he has familiarity with ASU as he was their offensive coordinator from 2012-2015, before taking the Memphis job.

Independence Bowl – Miami vs Louisiana Tech

First year Miami head coach Manny Diaz led the Hurricanes to a disappointing 6-6 season. In 2014, he worked for Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator/linebacker coach.

History of Bowl Matchups

Peach Bowl – LSU vs Oklahoma

LSU and Oklahoma have played twice and each team has one win – both games being played in the Sugar Bowl.

LSU won the 2004 BCS Championship Game 21-14, led by head coach Nick Saban. Oklahoma won the Sugar Bowl in 1950, shutting out the Tigers 35-0.

Fiesta Bowl – Ohio State vs Clemson

Clemson is 3-0 against Ohio State, winning three different bowl games.

The last time the Fiesta Bowl was the playoff semifinal game was also the last time Ohio State made the playoffs and was also the last time these teams met, with Clemson winning 31-0 in 2016. In 2014, Clemson won the Orange Bowl 40-35, and the 1978 Gator Bowl 17-15.

Rose Bowl – Wisconsin vs Oregon

These two schools last met in 2012, when Oregon won their first Rose Bowl in 95 years. Ducks produced 621 yards of total offense, including 345 yards rushing. RB LaMichael James ran 25 times for 159 yards and a TD, while De’Anthony Thomas had one of the most ridiculous box scores of all-time. He only ran the ball twice, both times for a TD, for a combined 155 yards.

Russell Wilson was the QB of Wisconsin and he threw for 296 yards, 2 TD, INT and almost led a heroic comeback in the final 10 seconds but came just 26 yards short.

Las Vegas Bowl – Boise State vs Washington

These teams meet in Vegas for the first time since 2012. Boise State won 28-26, thanks to a 27 yard field goal with 1:16 remaining. Washington RB Bishop Sankey ran for 205 yards and had 74 yards receiving. Boise State QB Joe Southwick threw 2 TDs (no turnovers) and 264 yards.

Rematches from Other Bowls

USC vs Iowa – Last met in 2003 Orange Bowl. USC won 38-17

Mississippi St vs Louisville – Met in 2017 in TaxSlayer Bowl. Mississippi State won 31-27 and Louisville QB Lamar Jackson threw 4 interceptions.

Florida State vs Arizona State – Second bowl meeting all-time and fifth matchup. FSU has won the last 3, but ASU won the first meeting in the 1971 Fiesta Bowl.

Michigan vs Alabama – Series tied at 2-2. Michigan won the 2000 Orange Bowl, led by Tom Brady. In 1997, Alabama won Outback Bowl and in 1988, Michigan won Hall of Fame Bowl.

Notable games history

  • Gasparilla Bowl features old C-USA rivals – Marshall won the first 3 games against UCF (2002-2004) and UCF has won all 8 meetings since (2005-2012)
  • Armed Force also features old C-USA rivals – Southern Miss has a 23-7 all-time lead on Tulane and has won the last 6 meetings (between 2003-2010).
  • Hawaii Bowl – BYU is 23-8 all-time vs Hawaii
  • Texas Bowl – Texas A&M and Oklahoma State met every year from 1996-2011 as Big 12 rivals and another 11 meetings prior to that. Aggies hold the all-time edge 17-10.
  • First Responders Bowl – Western Michigan and Western Kentucky have played 15 times (WMU leads 11-3-1) but have not met since 1947.
  • Sugar Bowl – Georgia 4-0 vs Baylor (1989-1972)
  • Orange Bowl is the second meeting ever between Florida and Virginia. Gators won in 1959.
  • Alamo Bowl is the second meeting between Texas and Utah. Longhorns won in 1982.
  • Independence Bowl – Miami is 4-0 all-time vs Louisiana Tech, which includes 2 shutouts and a cumulative score of 144-40

Better Basketball than Football Games

Michigan St vs Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been great at basketball in a long time, but wouldn’t you rather watch these two name brands play in Madison Square Garden as opposed to Yankee Stadium in NYC?

Indiana vs Tennessee

Indiana actually had a better record (8-4) than Tennessee (7-5) this year, which is crazy considering one of these schools is a basketball brand and the other is a football brand. 90% of college football fans have probably never watched an Indiana football game, but I’d bet of those 90% that almost all have watched an Indiana basketball game. Given the rise of Vols hoops in recent years, I’d say it’s a slam dunk that fans would prefer this basketball matchup over the football matchup.

Kentucky vs Virginia Tech

Both of these schools made the Sweet 16 in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. There isn’t much national appeal to this year’s Belk Bowl. But a basketball game would be fun, especially considering the Hokies are coached by Mike Young, who was the coach of Wofford during a near upset in the second round of last year’s tournament against Kentucky.

Virginia vs Florida

Virginia won the 2019 National Championship. Florida last won the Championship in 2006 and 2007 (the last repeat champion) and both teams have been ranked in the top 10 at various points in 2019. This would be a fun game. Florida blew out Virginia in the 2017 NCAA Tournament in round two.

Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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